‘Grill’ inspires ‘No Man’ pic

Inspired by the bounty brought to the coffers of the Catholic charity that produced “The Spitfire Grill,” producer Jon Lutz (“Prefontaine”), Presbyterian minister Howard Edington and Orlando businessman Bob Poe have banded to produce “Tell No Man,” based on Adela Rogers St. Johns’ 1966 novel.

The trio is establishing a corporation that would raise financing to produce the $5 million-to-$8 million film. Lutz and Poe will produce and Edington will exec produce. Hollywood-based scribe Susan Black has been hired to adapt the screenplay.

“Tell No Man” is the story of a successful stockbroker who has a dramatic religious experience and, against the wishes of his family and friends, decides to go into the ministry.

Rogers St. Johns was a journalist and screenwriter (“A Free Soul”) during Hollywood’s Golden Age. She wrote “Tell No Man” as a fictionalized story to protect the real-life identities of the book’s subjects.

Poe, an Orlando-based radio and TV entrepreneur, befriended Rogers St. Johns in 1973 when he was 19 and lived next door to the then-80-year-old in Malibu.

While Rogers St. Johns, who died in 1988, had given Poe the rights to the novel, it wasn’t until he and Edington witnessed what the Walls, Miss.-based Sacred Heart League achieved with “The Spitfire Grill” to raise money for their charity that the duo sought out Lutz to help guide the project.

Made for a reported $6 million, “The Spitfire Grill” was screened at the Sundance film fest in 1996. Castle Rock then paid the Sacred Heart League $10 million for the distrib rights to the film. The film has made $12.7 million domestically.

Earlier this year, Lutz, Edington and Poe met with the attorneys and principals who structured the “Spitfire” arrangement.

While money for “Tell No Man” won’t be raised directly from Edington’s 5,000-member First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, the congregation’s missionary and outreach programs will share in any profits.

“The initial money is coming from us as individuals and some other folks close to us, but it is very important that we keep this separate,” Edington said. “The ministry of the church must not be called into question.”

The trio plans to begin lensing the pic in 1998 for release in 1999.

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